Fiction - A selection from The White Crow v2, i2 - Osric Publishing

Below is Micheal Scott's short story, The Sociology Exam.

(More prose, from Bill Kaul a.k.a. "bill kaul-exxon puta IV", available in the print version of The White Crow, available for $2.00 ppd from Osric Publishing.)

The Sociology Exam
by Micheal Scott

The barking continued. My rented attic room was dark, except for the flickering ghost light of the TV. I got up and looked out my window, peering down at the dark backyards. I couldn't tell where the dog was.

By the time the eleven o'clock news started, the barking was driving me crazy. I closed the window, but that didn't help much.

The anchorwoman on TV told about two kids who were leaving for school that morning when they found their mother's decapitated body on the front lawn. It happened near the Wayne State campus, just two blocks from where I lived.

I shut off the TV, and my room was dark. The darkness unnerved me. And without the sound of the TV, the barking seemed louder than ever.

I had to get some sleep! I had a sociology exam in the morning, and sociology was my hardest class.

What was the matter with the people in the neighborhood? Why didn't somebody complain? Why didn't somebody do something? Everybody back in Marquette had tried to warn me about Detroiters. These city folks were a strange breed, all right.

I thought maybe I should go down, figure out where the dog was, then go to the house and ask the owner to please let him inside. But if I did go, who knew what I might find. The week before, near Tiger Stadium, a meter reader had gone down into a basement and found the bodies of three murder victims.

Midnight and still no relief. The barking was louder than ever, and so frenzied that it didn't even sound like a dog anymore.

I knew I had to do something. I imagined myself sneaking down into the backyard with a gun and blowing the dog's brains out. The thought gave me a moment of satisfaction, but I knew the idea wasn't practical. My landlord downstairs would certainly hear the shot, and the police could trace the bullet to my gun.

Besides, I didn't have a gun.

But how could I have been so stupid? The police! All I had to do was call the police!

I heard the buzz of the dial tone as I picked up the phone. If I made a complaint, I'd probably have to give my name and address. And when the police went to the man's house, he'd probably demand to know who had complained about him. What if he was some kind of psycho? What if he was letting his dog bark on purpose, because he knew somebody would certainly call the police, and that would give him a reason to retaliate?

I had read in the Free Press about some guy who had an argument with another man, and to get back at the other man, he burned down the man's apartment building. Of course, five innocent people died in the fire, but at least the guy got his revenge.

I hung up the phone.

I took the cotton from a bottle of aspirin and stuffed it into my ears. It didn't help much.

I lay there listening to the dog bark for the rest of the night. At times, the dog stopped barking for a while. Then I dozed off for a few minutes, only to be awakened when the barking started again.

The next thing I knew, it was six a.m., and I awoke to the sound of my alarm clock. It was dark, and when I shut off the alarm, I heard nothing. When I returned from the bathroom, there was still no barking.

As I was about to leave for breakfast at McDonald's, I paused to listen to the silence. I smiled.

Then I remembered my sociology exam.

On the way home from the library that night, I stopped to have a milkshake at McDonald's. I figured I deserved a little reward for the good job I had done on my exam. I knew I had passed, and under trying circumstances.

As I walked down the last block before my house, I saw a crowd. About twenty people were gathered around an ambulance that had backed up to a big rundown house. The place was just around the corner from my house. It was gray, and badly in need of painting. The yard was overgrown, and so was the vacant lot next door. In the driveway was a car with no tires.

Just as I arrived, two black men in white uniforms came out of the house carrying an old white woman on a stretcher. The woman's face didn't look real. It was so white that her skin seemed like a mask made out of plastic.

"Lordy! She be daid!" shrieked a black girl next to me.

But the woman on the stretcher opened her eyes for a second, then closed them again.

A white woman was alongside the stretcher as the men loaded it into the ambulance. She turned to the crowd.

"Sure, you're all here now," she said, looking right at me. "But where were you last night when this woman needed help? When she was lying in her house all night with a broken hip."

I looked at the crowd. It was mostly kids, with only two or three adults. Everyone was black except me. Maybe that was why the woman seemed to single me out when she spoke.

"What's the matter with you people?" she asked, looking at me again. "You're her neighbors, aren't you? Somebody said her dog barked all night long. Didn't it ever occur to you to find out why?"

The woman climbed into the ambulance, and the door slammed. Then the ambulance pulled out of the driveway and sped away, its red light flashing.

The crowd was silent. It began to break up as the people started walking back to their houses. Some of the kids returned to the street to finish a game of touch football.

I didn't say anything to my neighbors. I quickly rounded the corner and headed for my house. As I hurried up the walk, I had a strange feeling that somebody was following me. When I turned and looked behind me, no one was there.

I opened the door and went inside. Then I closed the door and locked all three locks. Leaning against the door, I looked up at the bright yellow bulb in the foyer. The light hurt my eyes.

Crowright 2001 Osric Publishing. Last updated 05.05.2001